May 20, 2012

The X-Factor: Kelly Olynyk

It wasn’t all too long ago that Zag fans were getting introduced to a longhaired, lanky, seven footer out of Kamloops, British Columbia. The relatively unknown big man averaged a ridiculous 35 points and 13 rebounds, during his senior year of High School, and had everyone asking “just who the heck is this kid?” Kelly Olynyk, now entering his junior year, has made his presence known across the country with his impressive play off the bench during his first two seasons. After an eye popping performance at the FIBA Americas tournament (including a 19 point 12 rebound game against Luis Scola and Argentina) many scouts began touting KO as a possible NBA draft pick. Following his terrific offseason playing international ball, Kelly returned to campus with high expectations. However, after choosing to redshirt the 2011-12 season, Olynyk once again seems to be flying under the radar.

Throughout his first few years at Gonzaga, Kelly has had to wait patiently for his turn. Coming into a team with a front court that featured two probable NBA draft picks, minutes have been hard to come by for the youngster. With the departure of Robert Sacre and Ryan Spangler though, it appeared as if more playing time would be available. Things were looking very up for KO, until the staff added Przemek Karnowski. The hype surrounding the Polish center has been staggering, add in Sam Dower who has been nationally hyped as a breakout player, then senior leader Elias Harris with expectations to be the WCC player of the year, and suddenly there are questions about whether there will be room for Kelly again. 

The biggest void left by the departure of Big Rob is the energy he brought to the defensive end of the floor. We have all seen that Sam Dower lacks intensity at times, and reports are that Karnowski does not have a dominant presence on the defensive end. Perhaps Kelly, who has demonstrated toughness on the court in the past, will be able to step in and replace that energy this year. Quick feet and a hard nosed attitude are two attributes that help make Kelly the most probable defensive successor to Sacre. An especially promising area where Kelly will offer an upgrade is on the boards. His rebound per 40 minutes during his sophomore year were a full 3 rebounds greater than that of Sam Dower last season (KO = 11.3, SD = 8.2), and are an improvement over Sacre last year as well (RS = 9.6). With Karnowski reportedly not a strong rebounder either, and Harris’ inconsistency on the glass, rebounding is a department where Kelly should be relied on to contribute heavily.

Offensively, each of the four Gonzaga big men bring unique skills to the table. While Dower is the more prolific scorer, one could argue that KO is the better fit to play along the surefire starter Harris. The experiment to move Harris to the wing has come and gone, and it is clear that he is at his best when allowed to face up and attack the rim. Putting Kelly in the starting lineup and using his ability to stretch the floor (.444 3PT % as sophomore) would force defenders outside the lane and allow Harris to get to the basket more freely. Also where Dower and Harris are not known for their passing, finding the open man is one of Kelly’s strengths. With great perimeter shooters in Pangos, Bell, and Dranginis (conceivably) surrounding our post players, KO’s ability to pass out of the post may indeed be the most valuable skill he brings to the table. Plus Kelly’s outlet passing ability would allow our back court players speed and athleticism to be fully utilized in the open court. For further matter, with GU's great collection of scorers already in the starting lineup, having a player like KO who can get his points through hustle instead of having plays run for him would be a huge asset. 

Coming off a redshirt year, Kelly Olynyk’s play isn’t the freshest memory in the minds of Gonzaga fans. But with a year of hard work in the gym, and the opportunity to battle against Rob Sacre and Co. every day in practice, KO is coming back a new and improved player. While the competition in the front court will be as good as ever, don’t think that Kelly Olynyk will be so eager to wait his turn this year. There is plenty of reason to think that it is his time to shine.

I'd like to say thanks to Josh and Gaz for giving me the opportunity to contribute. I'm very excited to be a part of the website. Hopefully I can bring an unique perspective and keep Gonzaga ahead of the curve on the talent coming out of Canada. GO ZAGS!


Josh Linke said...

Excellent first piece mark!

zagfan10 said...

Did not know about the rebounding potential. Where did you get your stats?
I am betting Kelly's role as a distributor will be large. I am hoping he can distribute like Pangos. He played point until he grew like a weed, and he used his red-shirt year to study the game. Unlike most players who take a red shirt, Kelly has apparently stepped into the role of an assistant coach. He tracked stats and offered his advice to the guys on the floor. (

I am excited to see Kelly step on the floor next season and hope all of his hard work pays off.

gaz-tastic said...

Welcome aboard Mark!!~

It will be very interesting to see how KO, The Prez, Harris, and Dower look this summer at the scrims.

I am excited to get a fresh look at KO, who has been shelved for a year. Zag Nation all hopes he has progressed nicely during his redshirt.

Nice work Mark!

TheCanadianPipeline said...

Thanks guys!

Like the input Zagfan10, Kelly O is definitely a very unique player. Stats were just off of ESPN btw

Unknown said...

Pumped to see KO!!!